The Crybaby Thugs of Maricopa County

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Anyone who has had the misfortune of being a defendant — even in traffic court — can attest to the tension, anxiety, and humiliation that experience entails.

People who have stood before a judge can also understand just how easy it is to be hit with a contempt citation, and how difficult it is to suppress the urge to display appropriate contempt toward the preening specimen in judicial robes, who demands deference of the sort properly reserved for the Deity.

By way of illustration: About three years ago, a Utah man named Kent Jacobson became bored and impatient while a district judge named Leslie Lewis disgorged a long, tiresome harangue about the supposed evils of hunting. Kent’s brother, Michael, was accused of poaching. When Kent grew weary of Judge Lewis’ monologue, he emitted a sigh and left the courtroom, only to be dragged back by a bailiff.

Lewis tauntingly asked Kent if he was bored. When Kent politely began to reply, Lewis cut him off and had him arrested for “contempt.”

“I’m not going to argue with you, and you have no business chastising me, sir, and I did not make a comment that you have any right to correct,” sneered Lewis as Kent was hauled out in handcuffs.  “I don’t want to hear a word from you. You and I are not in the same position, we’re not having a dialogue.”

The proper response to Lewis, of course, would have been:  “No, we’re not in the same position: I’m a productive member of society, and you’re a self-important, tax-fed parasite.”

Fortunately, Lewis became the second district judge in the history of Utah to be removed by majority vote of the electorate.

Most of the time, however, judges who display similar arrogant, dismissive contempt for their betters among the productive class are entirely beyond accountability. Perhaps the only people for whom they have anything resembling respect are the armed enforcers who carry out their orders. This is why the unfolding confrontation between a judge and the local sheriff’s office in Arizona’s Maricopa County is so fraught with fascination.

On Monday, Maricopa Sheriff’s Deputy Adam Stoddard went to jail as a result of a contempt charge. Stoddard, while acting as a bailiff, was videotaped stealing a document from the desk of a defense attorney.

Stoddard claimed to have seen something in the handwritten documents that constituted a threat to “court security.” Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe wasn’t buying that explanation and was offended Stoddard was trying to sell it.

However, perhaps mindful of the need to maintain cordial relations with the brown-shirted paladins of public order who carry out his decrees, Judge Donahoe didn’t send Stoddard immediately to jail, or slap him with a fine — punitive options he wouldn’t have hesitated to use against a mere mundane. Instead, he ordered Stoddard to apologize, in public, to defense attorney Joanne Cuccia for stealing the document and violating attorney-client privilege.

Granted, this “compromise” created more problems than it would have solved. But Stoddard at least would not have been ignominiously hauled away to jail.

With the support of his Dear Leader, the oleaginous proto-fascist named Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Stoddard defied the court order. Doubtless perceiving himself to be a martyr to principle — a veritable reincarnation of Sir Thomas More — Stoddard held a press conference to declare that he wouldn’t apologize “for doing my job,” and that saying he is sorry would be a “lie.”

At some point Monday evening, Stoddard checked in to the Maricopa County Jail system, a PR-oriented gulag in which male prisoners are required to wear pink underwear, inmates are fed green bologna, and more than a few have died through criminal violence or neglect on the part of Arpaio’s brownshirts.

Fret not for Adam Stoddard’s safety: As someone Arpaio has described as a “political prisoner” detained on the orders of a judge with a supposed “vendetta” against him, Stoddard will be almost certainly be spared the indignity of pink underwear and the horrors of green bologna as an inmate in a special, detainee-friendly facility referred to as the “Mesa Hilton.”

Here’s another unique perk that sets Stoddard apart from others confined to Arpaio’s gulag: The Maricopa County Association of Detention Officers (yes, even prison screws have a union) is standing “in solidarity” with him. That’s why 20 of those intrepid, public-spirited people suddenly called in “sick” Tuesday morning, thereby throwing the Superior Court into disarray.

Things got even nastier when an anonymous bomb threat was called in. That bomb threat — which would be considered an act of terrorism, were it carried out by a common citizen — helped create a large audience for the police union thugs as they made a demand that Stoddard be released from jail and have his record cleared. A demand made in similar fashion by advocates of an innocently imprisoned private citizen would probably provoke a RICO prosecution.

Maricopa County Deputy Sean Pearce, speaking on behalf of another tax-feeder union, the Deputies Law Enforcement Association, didn’t flinch from describing the events of Tuesday morning as a show of support for Stoddard: “I think it sends out a message that this officer has integrity,” Stoddard insisted. “Why should he apologize for doing his job?”

The “job” in question, apparently, includes stealing proprietary information, violating attorney-client confidentiality, lying about one’s actions, and defying an order to make restitution to the victim.

“Judge Donahoe has ordered me to feel something I do not and say something I cannot,” insisted Deputy Stoddard in his Monday evening press conference. But the same can truthfully be said by countless innocent people who have been put through the indignity of the “justice” system — from those found guilty of traffic violations on the fraudulent, self-interested testimony of traffic cops, to people who have been blackmailed into accepting plea bargains by devious, unprincipled prosecutors.

But Deputy Stoddard is one of the sacred personages who wear a government-issued costume and is invested with the supposed authority to kill other human beings. It’s just not right for members of that privileged elite to be treated like mere mundanes. Hence the collective tantrum being thrown by Stoddard’s fellow tax-feeders.

3:10 am on December 3, 2009